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Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

This month’s Bright Spot comes from Karen Kushnir, Megan DiDomenico, Amy Cohen and Cynthia Giumarra from Byram Hills.  Teams from Byram Hills have been attending the Student-Directed IEP book study series.

What were students able to achieve?

Students with disabilities in Byman Hills are setting their own learning goals, monitoring their progress towards achievement of those goals, and engaging in self-advocacy to ensure they receive the supports they need.  They are able to identify and articulate what instructional strategies and supports work for them.  As the team says, the students are taking ownership and becoming more invested in their educational planning and annual review meetings.

What practices or systems made this possible?

Here are just a few of the practices that Byram Hills staff are putting in place:

* Teaching self-awareness and goal setting to students as early as Kindergarten

* Involving all student in understanding their current IEP goals and brainstorming ways to achieve them

* Explicitly teaching students how to advocate and how to ask for help

* Recognizing the responsibility educators have to prepare their student to be independent learners, thinkers and active members of society

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Here’s what two of the teachers had to say:

“When a student’s voice is heard and they are part of their own educational planning in a developmentally appropriate manner, they are invested in their own education and become more self-aware and self-confident.”

“Students are the “I” in IEP.  Their role is an integral part of the process.”

This month’s Bright Spot comes from Barbara Rizzo, a Special Education teacher at Ossining High School who has been attending the RSE-TASC Forum, a group developed by educators who exclusively serve students with more severe developmental and intellectual disabilities.

What were students able to achieve?

Barbara wanted to  integrate her students more into the school community and the larger community.  As a result of efforts over the year, she reports that:

  • Students are interacting with non-classified peers at a much higher rate, and are initiating these interactions themselves.
  • Students’ expressive language skills have increased.
  • Problematic behaviors that sometimes made integration challenging have decreased.

What practices or systems made this possible?

Barbara actively sought out settings and activities where her students could engage with non-classified peers.  She also identified work sites in the community where her students could have increased interactions with a wide range of individuals in the community.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

From the CEEDAR Center’s publication Evidence-Based Practices for Students with Severe Disabilities, we know that individuals with severe disabilities demonstrate markedly increased numbers of social interactions with peer support, and that  peers without disabilities improve or maintain their academic performance while providing these supports.  Ensuring inclusive schools and communities helps everyone!




Class/Grade Level*


What did your student(s) achieve?

What instructional practice or systemic change supported this student success?

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